Tag Archives: Health Care

Viral Video of Hospital Dumping Woman Into Freezing Cold Stirs Demand for ‘Medicare for All

“Attempted murder” is how one analyst described the medical center’s decision to leave an incapacitated young woman at a bus stop in frigid weather

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-12-2018

A video screenshot of a woman who was discharged from University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus in Baltimore on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2018. (Imamu Baraka/Facebook video screenshot)

Described as a horrifying depiction of “the reality of U.S. for-profit healthcare,” a Baltimore-based psychotherapist this week caught on video University of Maryland Medical Center staff “dumping” a clearly incapacitated young woman into the freezing Maryland weather wearing only a thin hospital gown and socks.

“Is this what healthcare in Baltimore City has come to?” asked Imamu Baraka, who captured the “disturbing” scene on his cell phone. The video has since garnered more than two million views.

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Baraka’s video soon sparked national headlines and widespread outrage, with many noting that “patient dumping” is a pervasive and under-discussed product of a system that does not guarantee healthcare as a right to all.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, concluded that the only solution is to “implement single-payer, Medicare for All or Americans continue to suffer/die.”

Others echoed DeMoro’s call, arguing that the medical center’s behavior is essentially “attempted murder.

The hospital issued an apology following the flood of outrage, taking “full responsibility for this failure” to provide “basic humanity and compassion.”

“We are taking this matter very seriously, conducting a thorough review, and are evaluating the appropriate response, including the possibility of personnel action,” hospital spokeswoman Lisa Clough said in a statement.

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New Report on Radioactive Tap Water Renews Concerns About Trump Nominee for Top Environmental Role

Critics are challenging Trump’s “outrageous” and “alarming” move to renominate the former head of a Texas environmental agency who has admitted to falsifying reports of radiation levels in drinking water

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-12-2018

A new investigation reveals that from 2010 to 2015, more than 170 million Americans—including about 25 million in California and 22 million in Texas—were drinking water contaminated with radioactive elements. (Photo: Steve Johnson/Flickr/cc)

A new five-year investigation revealing that more than 170 million Americans were drinking water contaminated with radioactive elements is also renewing concerns about President Donald Trump’s pick for a top environmental position in his administration—Kathleen Hartnett White, who ran Texas’ environmental agency while it was falsifying reports of radiation levels in tap water.

White chaired the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from 2003 to 2007, and admitted to local reporters in 2011 that the agency intentionally lowered the radiation level reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because, “We did not believe the science of health effects justified EPA setting the standard where they did.”  Continue reading

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‘No One Should Be Fooled’: Warren Rips Trump’s HHS Pick Over Desire to Gut Medicaid

“You want to smile and pretend otherwise until you get the job,” Warren said.

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-9-2018

Alex Azar. Screenshot: YouTube

While President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services (HHS) nominee Alex Azar—a former pharma executive—spent most of his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday ducking and dodging pointed questions about his long history of “price gouging,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) decided to call Azar out on his support for gutting Medicaid and turning the program into a block grant.

After Azar suggested he supports block granting Medicaid as a “concept to look at” but refused to say whether he would move in that direction if confirmed, Warren said, “Mr. Azar, you can own up to the fact that you want to cut Medicaid and gut the Affordable Care Act, like every other member of the Trump administration.”

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‘Anti-Trump Rhetoric Not Enough’: Bold, Progressive Agenda Demanded for 2018

“We must act together. And we must act strategically. 2018 is the year the people fight back like never before.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-1-2018

“Empty platitudes and anti-Trump rhetoric is not enough to win seats in Congress,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

As Republicans and President Donald Trump turn toward the new year with destruction on their minds, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined a chorus of voices in expressing the urgent need to reach beyond merely resisting the right’s agenda and articulate an inspiring alternative that will sweep progressives into positions of power.

“Here is a New Year’s resolution I hope you will share with me,” Sanders wrote on Twitter just before midnight on Sunday. “In 2018, we will not only intensify the struggle against Trumpism, we will increase our efforts to spread the progressive vision in every corner of the land.” Continue reading

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The most important person in America is not Trump

Our most admired, most important Person of the Year for 2017 goes to…

Written by Carol Benedict

Screenshot: Euronews

2017 is a year no one will miss much. We struggled through the year with the “deer in the headlights” syndrome across our populace; so much so that “not normal” became expected, and the expected became obscure.

But what did we find when we looked at the year to decide who was the biggest influence on us, who did we turn to for hope and inspiration in our darkest moments? Our collective minds turn to the voice of the resistance – every person, team, organization, group and crowd that forged a line and said “ENOUGH!” in one great shout. Continue reading

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Want to Lower Health Care Costs? Stop Wasting Our Money.

This year ProPublica documented the many ways waste is baked into our health care system, from destroying perfectly good medication to junking brand new supplies. Eliminating the waste could insure millions of Americans.

By Marshall Allen. Published 12-28-2017 by ProPublica

Photo: PrEP

In Maine, there’s a warehouse the size of a middle school gymnasium, stuffed with brand-new medical supplies and gently used medical equipment. Several pallets are piled with boxes of surgical sutures, still in their shrink wrap, each box worth hundreds of dollars. Tubs overflow with diabetes supplies and surgical instruments that may run hundreds of dollars apiece. There are bins of bandages and gauze and saline and ostomy bags and every other medical supply you can imagine. These materials, unexpired, could easily stock any hospital or clinic. But each item has actually been thrown away by a local medical facility.

The cost of health care has been rising for decades, and Americans are paying the price. In a recent Gallup poll, people cited the high cost of care as their No. 1 financial concern. It’s an enormous problem, and trying to solve it all at once brings on panic and paralysis. But after reporting for a year on the ways the medical industry blows through our money, I have one idea: Let’s end the egregious waste that’s draining our health care system.

The National Academy of Medicine has estimated the health care system wastes around $765 billion a year — about a quarter of what we spend. Eliminating all the waste could allow us to insure 150 million Americans, the Academy of Medicine said, and saving half of it could provide groceries for every household in the country for a year. Eliminating the waste would also stop our rising health care costs from eating up our wage increases. My premiums go up 9 percent next year. Same thing happened last year. Odds are your costs are rising, too.

It’s hard to downplay what I found when I began investigating the issue. Hospitals throw out so many valuable supplies that a cottage industry of charities has sprung up to collect this stuff and ship it to the developing world — otherwise, all those goods in that Maine warehouse would be headed for a landfill.

Nobody tracks how much hospitals waste rather than donate, and I couldn’t track down where each item came from. But experts told me when hospitals change vendors for a type of supply, they often toss the old stuff. Or, if they take over a clinic or facility, they get rid of the items that come with it, even if they are unused and unexpired.

The operating room is a major source of wasted spending. One hospital tracked the value of unused items that went to waste during neurosurgery procedures in a single year. The total: $2.9 million — for one type of surgery at just one hospital. In that case, the surgeons hadn’t updated their system of telling the staff which supplies to prep for each operation. They were opening many items they didn’t need, which then had to be thrown away even though they were unused. The hospital updated its approach to make sure they aren’t setting up for operations with excess supplies.

I learned that nursing homes throw away hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of valuable medication every year. They typically dispense drugs a month at a time for patients and often have them discontinued if the patient dies or transfers. The excess drugs get trashed, incinerated or even flushed down the toilets, contaminating our water supply. The chief executive of a pharmacy that serves nursing homes in Florida told me that his company alone throws away about $2.5 million a year in valuable medication.

In Iowa, the state government funded a program to recover these castoff nursing home meds and donate them to needy patients, for free. This year, they’re on pace to recover and redistribute $6 million in medication. My story led policymakers in Florida and New Hampshire to introduce legislation to try to replicate the Iowa program.

Drugs are a huge source of waste, partly because drug expiration dates don’t mean what we think they mean. The Food and Drug Administration makes pharmaceutical companies show their medication is safe and effective until its expiration date. It doesn’t make them find out how long they actually last.

Studies show it’s common for a drug to be safe after its expiration date. The FDA runs a program that tests and then extends expiration dates on drugs in the federal government’s stockpiles. Those same drugs get thrown away in pharmacies when they “expire,” even though many of them are in short supply. How much of our money does it waste? One midsize hospital in Boston throws away about $200,000 worth of drugs a year that hit their expiration date. If that’s true for other hospitals, the total would be about $800 million a year for hospital pharmacies alone.

Meanwhile, drug companies are making eyedrops two or three times larger than what the eye can even contain. We are paying for the wasted medicine running down our cheeks. I spoke to the former head of research for Alcon Laboratories, a global leader in the eye care industry now owned by Novartis. He told me that in the early 1990s his team created a “microdrop” that eliminated the waste. The microdrops were effective and reduced the burning caused by larger drops. But Alcon’s leaders killed the project because they were worried it could reduce sales.

Vials of cancer drugs are also made too large, which one study said wastes about $1.8 billion a year in the valuable medication. Earlier this year, one drug company switched from a multiuse vial, which could be shared by patients, to a single-use vial that could not be shared, thereby increasing the amount of wasted cancer medication. The change would make the supply chain more reliable worldwide, the company said. But one cancer center calculated that the change would cost each patient an average of $1,000 in waste per infusion. Imagine: You’re fighting cancer and then get billed an extra thousand dollars for medication they toss in the trash. Two U.S. senators responded to my story by introducing legislation to solve the problem of oversized eyedrops and cancer drug vials.

These are not isolated examples or small sums being squandered. Let’s say my reporting identified about $10 billion in wasted spending. That’s a rough estimate because no one is actually tracking how much we’re wasting. What else could we be doing with that money? The Kaiser Family Foundation says it costs an average of $6,690 to pay one person’s insurance premium in 2017. At that rate, the $10 billion saved could insure about 1.5 million people for a year. Tell those people it isn’t important to reduce our wasted health care spending.

The Academy of Medicine did something smart when it reframed our health care overspending as waste. We may be a wasteful country, but we still teach our kids to eat everything on their plates. “Waste not, want not,” is baked into our cultural DNA. It’s a powerful concept because it’s a moral one. It’s wrong to squander the hard-earned dollars Americans are paying into the health care system and then demand they pay more.

We can’t be naive and think it will be easy to fix this problem. Our wasted spending represents revenue and profit for the medical industry. But our health care spending should not be an entitlement program for the medical industrial complex. I put together a prescription for reducing the wasted spending I identified. Our policymakers should stand up to the medical industry and stamp out the waste.

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Mercury from industrialized nations is polluting the Arctic – here’s how it gets there

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Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska. Plants on the Arctic tundra absorb mercury from the air, then transfer it to soil when they die. Paxson Woelber, CC BY

Daniel Obrist, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Scientists have long understood that the Arctic is affected by mercury pollution, but know less about how it happens. Remote, cold and seemingly pristine, why is such an idyllic landscape so contaminated with this highly toxic metal?

I recently returned from a two-year research project in Alaska, where I led field research into this issue alongside fellow scientists from the University of Colorado; the University of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute; the University of Toulouse and the Sorbonne University in France; and the Gas Technology Institute in Illinois. Continue reading

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We started a revolution over this once

Do you remember voting for lobbyists to decide who pays what in taxes? We don’t.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga/flickr

On Friday night, the Senate passed their version of the #GOPTaxScam. The bill, all 479 pages of it, was presented to the full Senate just hours before the vote. The vote was along party lines, with the one dissenting vote among the Republicans coming from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

So, what was in this bill, and why did they vote on it before all the Senators could actually read through the bill? We’re glad you asked. First, what’s in it.

A lot of the bill is what you’d expect. For example:

  • The top individual rate is reduced from 39.6% to 38.5%, and the threshold at which the top rate kicks in is increased from $418,000 for a single/$480,000 for married filing jointly to $500,000/$1,000,000
  • The estate tax exemption is doubled, to $11 million for a single taxpayer and $22 million for married taxpayers.
  • The corporate rate is reduced from 35% to 20%.
  • The top rate on the income earned by owners of “flow through” businesses — S corporations and partnerships — is reduced from 39.6% to a shade below 30%.

Questions about these measure that we were forced to ask include; how is it that corporations are able to keep the tax deductions that have now been excluded from individual tax bases? Why is the corporate tax is now LOWER than the top individual rate? If corporations are people too, why is there ANY difference in these tax rates?

Then, there’s the “Why are these items in a tax bill, anyways?” parts. These include:

  • A provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” This is essentially a personhood bill, setting a precedent for the legal definition of life beginning at conception.
  • The bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. This would mean that churches and the like could actively engage in elections without disclosing individual donors; think of it as Citizens United on steroids. This serves the purpose of blurring the lines between the separation of church and state, allowing the churches to donate and promote individual candidates in local and national elections, all while cloaked under the donation secrecy this provision allows.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate of the ACA. While this actually does deal with taxes (the fine for not being insured is paid as part of your taxes), removing the mandate means that younger and healthier people won’t buy insurance until they need it. These are the people who currently offset the cost of providing healthcare to the older and sicker people. Without this in place, premiums will rise dramatically more than the anticipated 10% over the next 10 years.
  • A provision that would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. While this would raise revenue, it only amounts to $2 billion over the next ten years, at the cost of almost assuredly ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Additionally, it is worded in such a way that it is actually ILLEGAL to not drill, forcing Alaska to accept ANY drilling permits and fields desired.

Of course, the individual tax cuts are set to expire, meaning that the middle class will see a tax increase. And, what’s going to pay for these? The GOP mantra’s always been that tax cuts pay for themselves, but others, such as Marco Rubio, have already admitted that the tax reform is part one of a two-step process designed to defund and eventually dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; the very programs designed to help the elderly, disabled and poorest members of American society.

Now obviously, a lot of these proposals don’t sit well with the electorate. So, why the rush to pass it? The GOP needs a victory. Even with controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, this administration’s been notably inept in getting meaningful things accomplished. Furthermore, the GOP donor class has stated that the campaign money will dry up if they don’t get the tax cuts they want.

Photo: Represent.US

So, who came up with most of the amendments? Lobbyists. Out of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, more than 6,000 said that they worked on taxes this year. That works out to 11 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Do you remember electing lobbyists to write our laws? We sure don’t.

We still have a chance to stop this. The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee. The bill that comes out of that will need to be passed by both houses. The healthcare fiasco this summer proves that if we’re loud and persistent enough, our message gets through. And, with the bill only having 37% approval before the vote, there’s enough of us to make the message get through.

And what if it doesn’t? The last time that the GOP had won control of both houses and the presidency before 2016 was 1928. The new tax bill looks even more extreme than the policies put into place by the Republicans after the 1928 election. Does anybody remember what happened in 1929?

Another annoying historical factoid that you may wish to remember at a time like this: 244 years ago, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to pay taxes without proper representation, and what became known as the Boston Tea Party took place. This in turn led to a revolution, and the founding of this country.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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‘Kill the Bill, Don’t Kill Us’: Protesters Arrested as GOP Push Senate Tax Bill Forward

Resistance groups hold protests across country as Republicans clear committee vote, advancing bill to Senate floor

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-28-2017

Photo: Brynna Quillin/Twitter

As the Senate Budget Committee debated the Republican tax bill on Tuesday before passing the proposal in a 12-11 vote, about a dozen people were arrested after disrupting the meeting to demand that senators reject the bill.

The demonstrators chanted, “Kill the bill, don’t kill us,” repeating the refrain that was commonly heard in protests against the Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over the summer. Continue reading

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Dozens of #TrumpTaxScam Sit-Ins and Rallies Planned for Final Resistance Push

The Senate is expected to vote on the Republican tax bill as early as Thursday

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-24-2017

The National Day of Action is planned for Monday as the Trump resistance fights the Republican tax plan, which is expected to raise taxes on middle-income Americans while cutting them for corporations and the richest families. (Photo: @Indivisible12th/Twitter)

The grassroots resistance group Indivisible was gearing up on Friday for a planned National Day of Action, targeting Republican senators who are thought to be potential “no” votes on the GOP’s tax plan—in a final push to keep the bill from passing. The Senate is expected to vote on the plan as soon as Thursday.

The group was preparing for #TrumpTaxScam Sit-Ins taking place across the country on Monday, at the offices of several senators including Arizona’s John McCain and Jeff Flake, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Susan Collins (R-Maine)—focusing attention on some of the lawmakers who were targeted last summer during the fight against the Republican healthcare plan. Continue reading

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